The Hanged Man

In 1999, after finishing university, I decided to take a year off and write a novel. I was obsessed with Tarot at the time and also trying to reconcile a rather lonely but artistic, moneyless gay man’s life (at the time) with the expected social obligations the world sets upon you when you’re young. I was rebelling – I was angry, I was gay and anti-establishment, I was furious with man-made religion , I was headstrong and extreme and sexed-up. I poured all this into a novel – The Hanged Man – the title taken from the Tarot card and yet also referring to Jesus hanging on the cross. What came out was a surreal, baroque drama of dreams, spirituality, resurrection, sex, betrayal, and the two-sided nature and duplicity of the self.

The Hanged Man Tarot Card

The story concerns a young man, the reincarnation of the Marquis De Sade, who is a far more timidly sexual man than his ancestor. He is a photographer and accidentally photographs into existence his future self, who’s a fallen angel, back from the dead. Ironically his future self, known simply as Smith, does not look exactly like the present De Sade, and is far more perverse and violent. De Sade begins an affair with him, and involves his best friend, fortune-teller and occasional lover, Celia, in the sexual relationship. Through divine conception De Sade gives birth to a baby boy, Ben, who is also himself. He now exists in past – Ben, present – De Sade, and future – Smith. Celia, Smith and he try and start up a strange little family. But when Smith’s appetite for sexual violence becomes dangerous everything quickly begins to tear itself apart. How far into the future can Celia see? Is Smith really an agent of the Devil? And will any of them escape the fate of the Hanged Man?


Chapter One

Currently unpublished.

The Hanged Man Tarot Card

The sacrificial figure of the Hanged Man is placed at twelve, between the loving discipline of Strength and the inevitability of Death…The Hanged Man is undergoing a ritual sacrifice, for if he were to be executed he would be hanged by the neck…Medieval criminals were sometimes hanged upside down as a form of public humiliation, known as baffling. However, the image and practice has ancient roots – and was used by heretical secret societies in initiation rituals.

Odin, the powerful Nordic god, hung himself upside down on a tree “for nine long nights”. As he sacrificed himself as an offering to himself, he was granted tremendous inspiration and wisdom because he gained the knowledge of the runes…

The theme of dying, or becoming unconscious, and rising again is a widespread belief across numerous mythologies. During the Renaissance and later, this card was associated with Judas Iscariot, whose betrayal of Jesus led to his crucifixion. It was sometimes called the Thief or the Traitor. Judas acts as a dramatic catalyst in the biblical story, for his betrayal and its results are foreseen by Jesus, who is aware that he must die and in doing so effectively sacrifice himself to the greater power of God…

Odin was not only a dying and resurrected deity: he was also a trickster god who could shape-shift, or change his shape at will. Trickster gods commonly rule over thieves, as well as language, magic and travelling. So, tenuous though the theory may be, there are well-established links between thieves, sacrifices and deities who entered the realms of death and were able to return to life. The Hanged Man is associated with the planet Neptune, which rules dreams, sacrifice, spiritual love, mysticism and inspiration. Significantly, it is also the planet of lies, confusion and betrayal…

From The Renaissance Tarot by Jane Lyle. Published 1998 by Simon & Schuster Australia.